By Reynolds Army Community HospitalSeptember 15, 2016
FORT SILL, Okla., Sept. 15, 2016 -- September is Suicide Prevention Month, and the Army motto this year is "Be there!" All Fort Sill Soldiers know through their Ask-Care-Escort training just how to do that.
Here's the story of what happens to those Soldiers who seek assistance. The hardest part of getting help can be taking that first step, as Staff Sgt. Caleb Sprayberry knows.
"My story starts with a difficult deployment from 2009 through 2010. After my unit re-deployed I was sent to an airborne unit with such a high operations tempo that I did not have time to adjust," he said.
Research shows that the top reasons why Soldiers commit suicide in the military include relationship problems, work stress, depression, PTSD, chronic pain, traumatic experiences or deployments.
"I ended up breaking my leg on a jump which only contributed to my stress at the time. Fast forward two years and my wife started noticing changes in my behavior and really started to encourage me to get help," said Sprayberry.
"I was heading down a really dark road and did not realize it until I sat down in a group therapy session and for the first time talked to other people about what I had seen during my deployment," said Sprayberry. "It is so good to know that there are other people that are going through the same thing and just talking and listening can help you overcome your problems."
Getting help on personal problems early is vital. Dealing with depression, PTSD or an untreated traumatic event by one's self can be deadly.
The stress multiplies if there is an added strain of family or relationship conflict, divorce or financial problems. Soldiers may find themselves unable to speak to anyone which can increase feelings of hopelessness.
Another Fort Sill Soldier, Pfc. Joseph Aslin, while recovering from a recent suicide attempt, wants to share his story to encourage other Soldiers to get help before deciding that suicide is the only way out.
"I was trying to deal with severe depression that was preventing me from just getting through the day," said Aslin. "It can be hard to get out of bed in the morning, there were so many stressors in my life, and I was really feeling helpless and worthless. But, after the treatment I'm still receiving here at the Behavioral Health Clinic, the main thing I want anyone who is struggling to know is, get the help you need. Talk to your buddies or anyone you see struggling.
"It may sound cliché but I have found that if you dig deep and practice the skills you learn here, it really does help," continued Aslin. "The coping skills and stress management techniques that the counselors have taught me have really helped me to learn to relax and manage the stressors in my life."
Sprayberry added he's learned coping skills that have helped him on his road to recovery.
"I have not attempted suicide, but there is no telling where I could have ended up had I not sought out the help I needed," he said.
Aslin stressed the need for continued care.
"I want everyone to know that you can't just walk in here one time and expect everything to get fixed right away. I am doing much better now, but I still rely on the counseling and treatment to continue improving my mental health. Get the help you need and don't stop there, keep coming in."
When asked about any perceived stigma on going to behavioral health from his fellow noncommissioned officers or his Soldiers, Sprayberry said, "Seeking help will only help you be more successful in you military career. If you can't take care of yourself, you can't take care of your Soldiers. Get the help you need before you feel the need to take care of it yourself."
Behavioral health professionals know there is a domino effect that occurs when emotional pain is left untreated. The effect can be devastating and seen in performance at work, with family members and friends. Author Jeannette Walls said, "When people kill themselves they think they're ending the pain, but all they're doing is passing it on to those they leave behind."
It is important to talk with someone if you are feeling suicidal and not give up until someone listens. Talk to someone you trust, like a first line leader, your unit chaplain, the Urgent Care Clinic staff or the Behavioral Health Clinic at Reynolds Army Community Hospital. If you know someone who is going through a divorce or having trouble at work, talk with them and ask them if they need help.
Come join RACH health professional at the hospital's medical mall and dining facility Sept. 16, 23 and 30 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for resources and information about suicide prevention and behavioral health resources.
For more information or to make an appointment, contact the Department of Behavioral Health at 580-442-4832/4833. For immediate help, call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255 or 800-784-2433.